Yellow cabs…Water towers…Anthora “We Are Happy to Serve You” cups: all of these items have earned a place as icons of New York City. However, I’d like to celebrate one under-the-radar (or make it underground, literally) item that deserves its place in the pantheon of “only in New York City” things: a bag of Bazzini Nuts ($1.50/ea).
You see them on racks at every subway newsstand, and above ground you can only find them in authentic scruffy old delis or bodegas, usually at the fringes of fashionable neighborhoods that have succumbed to fancy Nutbox nuts or with delis offering high-priced low-sodium bags of peanuts. Founded in 1886 by Italian immigrant Anthony Bazzini, the company sold nuts by the pound to bakers, street vendors and individuals. Its elegant nut processing building still stands on the cobbled streets of Soho bearing the Bazzini name although the company moved its processing to Hunts Point, Bronx in 1997. Bazzini moved its nuts out of New York entirely in 2011, to a 200,000 square-foot processing plant in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Yet, the nuts remain a New York fixture. I mean, really, how much more authentically “New York” can you get when you’ve been “the official peanuts of the New York Yankees,” since the Yanks’ inaugural game against the Red Sox in 1923?
The Chef rightly calls Bazzini Nuts “the fuel for the urban hiker,” and he should know, since he averages eight miles of walking a day. When he goes out on his weekend walks—say, from our Morningside Heights apartment to the Keg & Lantern in Greenpoint—he will refuel with a bag of Bazzini Cranberry Nut Mix and maybe an espresso for the 10 mile journey. However, I also would call these the fuel for the NYC cultural enthusiast. To counterbalance the loneliness of the freelance writing life, I pack some days full to bursting with coffees with friends, museum visits, lap swimming sessions, knitting group meetings and evening poetry readings or films. Two bags of Bazzini nuts ($3.00) keep me from spending top dollar on sub-par snacks or sweets, to keep from getting “hangry” as I race between one activity to another.
For instance, recently I signed up to watch a dark Norwegian TV thriller, Valkyrien, at one of my favourite cultural centers, Scandinavia House (where I also attend a congenial bimonthly knitting group). The back-to-back episodes air at 7PM well before our dinnertime, so this Wednesday I grabbed a bag of salty Bazzini Cocktail Crunch or Prime Time Snack Mix and one of the healthier ones, like Raisin Nut Party Mix. I emptied my crinkly crackly bag of nuts onto a shawl spread over my lap ( to avoid the dagger-pointed eyes of the woman next to me) and settled in to watch episode 5 of this dark thriller that mixes plot lines involving medical professionals doing secret research and doomsday preppers.
About a half hour into the episode, a bag of nuts became the central focus. The leader of the online group of survivalists becomes convinced of a coming pandemic and gathers his fellow members to a forest outside Oslo, There they sit around a flickering fire discussing the approaching doomsday, when one of the children there notices that the bag of nuts making its way around the circle never got to her. The preppers ferret out the one who is hoarding nuts, the evil squirrel, and Leif, the leader, gives a little talk about the need for cooperation. “We must share our nuts. It’s not every man for himself.”
I will share my bag of Bazzini nuts with you should we be faced with the end of days, as, during this Trump presidency, surely seems coming. Nuts are one of the healthiest things you can eat; it makes sense that the preppers will stockpile them. But I can’t say I won’t try to pick out the honey roasted peanuts from the bag of Bazzini Cocktail Crunch as it comes round or the rare pecans from the Cranberry Nut Mix...